Police have issued a warning over the dangers of using laser pointers after reports of motorists and aircraft pilots being dazzled in the county.
The perilous use of lasers is being highlighted by officers in a bid to raise people’s awareness of the dangers of using what some people regard as harmless toys.
Green lasers are not illegal and are often used by astronomers to point out stars, but they can have a huge impact on motorists as well as aircraft pilots many thousands of feet in the air.
Not only can the laser beam cause a significant distraction, they can also lead to permanent damage to the eyes.
Ports officer Rak Nathwani, from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “In 2012, we had 33 incidents of green lasers being directed at people in Northamptonshire, disturbingly seven of these were aimed at aircraft pilots. The remaining incidents involved red or green lasers being used to dazzle motorists or being shone at people or into their homes.
“There is controlled air space over much of Northamptonshire which is not only used by the force and other helicopters, but is also used by commercial and freight aircraft making their descents into Birmingham and East Midlands Airports.
“Every time someone shines a laser at an aircraft they are risking the safety of the people on that aircraft as well as others on the ground, the consequences of their actions could be catastrophic.”
It is an offence for someone to shine a light at an aircraft in flight which dazzles or distracts the pilot or endangers the safety of an aircraft.
One such incident in Northamptonshire in October last year, saw a 24-year-old man appear in court charged with shining a light at an aircraft, for which he pleaded guilty and he was fined £250, £85 costs and £25 victim surcharge.
The East Midlands Air Support Unit had been assisting in the search for a missing child, when a green laser was persistently shone at the aircraft. The impact was so bad that the helicopter was going to have to stop assisting the search for the child.
Officers on the ground were deployed and with the assistance of the air crew identified the property where the laser was shining from. This enabled the helicopter to continue the search for the missing child, who was found a short time later.
See footage taken by the East Midlands Air Support Unit during the incident in October which shows the impact a laser can have on pilots – Click here